Cologne's police accused of racism

In response to the events of New Year's Eve a year ago this time the police in Cologne checked the papers of hundreds of men deemed to be North African on the basis of their appearance. The operation has drawn criticism from several politicians and triggered a debate about racial profiling. Foreign commentators find it interesting that this is such a controversial issue in Germany.

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Spiegel Online (DE) /

Talk about racism in a more differentiated way

There should be a more nuanced view of police work, columnist Margarete Stokowski writes in Spiegel Online:

“Between the positions that 'the police are all heroes' and 'the police are racist and suspicious of innocent North Africans' there is also the possibility that the Cologne police succeeded in keeping the number of crimes much lower than last year but at the same time may have a problem with racism, at least in individual cases. ... If there is racism among the police, then this is expressed - as in the rest of society - not simply in a wrong choice of words that would simply need to be corrected, but it is deeply entrenched and may even be unconscious. Reports suggesting that there is indeed a phenomenon that looks like racial profiling to those affected but is not identified by the police as such because it is forbidden have been circulating since long before New Year’s Eve. But now we’ve apparently got to the point where we can talk about them.”

Delo (SI) /

Don't put up with everything

The debate about the police operation in Cologne on New Year’s Eve signals a change in Germany, Delo believes:

“Germany’s previously humane attitude to crime, expressed in attempts to understand and help criminals, is collapsing under the strain of imported perpetrators of violence from different cultural and religious worlds. In a way that is sad - until now the heirs of the terrible Nazi regime were better precisely because they called their repressive organs into question. Yet seventy years later the presence of ‘other’ cultures is a problem requiring new definitions of security. ... Germany and the rest of Europe can retain most of the things that make them more humane and more civilised, but they should on no account allow anyone to spit in the face of their charitable attitude.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Brainwashed Germany

Politicians like the leader of the German Greens, Simone Peter, are throwing the gates wide open to terrorism, commentator Zsolt Bayer fumes in the nationalist daily Magyar Hírlap:

“Peter is actually accusing the Cologne police of racism! She would do better to keep her mouth shut! I accuse Simone Peter and all other scoundrels of her ilk! They are chiefly to blame for the current infernal state of Europe. ... Simone Peter and cohorts encourage and protect the apostles of terror. They sacrifice human lives on the altar of 'human rights', when human rights have actually become entirely unimportant to them. ... I accuse these scoundrels of hindering the work of the guardians of law and order with their public rampages. European societies - especially German society which has experienced the greatest brainwashing - should finally wake from their slumbers!”

Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

The good news was quickly forgotten

The debate triggered by the police operation in Cologne on New Year's Eve has aroused the anger of Wiener Zeitung:

“If there is a truly worrying indication that 2017 will be a seamless continuation of the ill-fated year 2016 it is precisely this discussion. Because the good and really relevant news that otherwise everything went off peacefully was forgotten by Monday. Only bad news is good news. The authorities rushed to try to get the expected spirit of indignation back into the bottle. The use of the term ['Nafri' for North Africans in a tweet of the Cologne police] was immediately described as a mistake while at the same time the accusation of racist behaviour as levied by the leader of Germany's Greens was firmly rejected. It's clear that if almost all those suspected of an offence come from the same cultural background, the police are going to keep a watchful eye on such people.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Ideas change after a shock

Le Temps sees the discussion about the police operation and racial profiling as an indication of the kind of debate that awaits Europe:

“We can look at the problem from whatever angle we like, but we’ll need to get used to the fact that ways of thinking that had guided our open societies until the shock they have now suffered are changing. We also need to grasp that nowadays Western citizens perhaps favour order and security over a belief in unrestricted freedom and equality. New Year’s Eve 2017 in Cologne has given us a foretaste of the debates that await us and that will intensify all over Europe, including Switzerland.”

Die Welt (DE) /

The state made its presence felt

At last the state has taken effective measures to protect its citizens from violent criminals, Die Welt comments approvingly:

“New Year's Eve 2016 was more peaceful than New Year's Eve 2015. … It was more peaceful because the state finally took very visible preventive measures to protect domestic security. It made its presence felt. It subjected groups of youths to checks because they behaved suspiciously, not because of the way they looked. In this case the state did what it failed to do in the case of Anis Amri. It interpreted mere indications of latent aggression as a sign of intent to commit a crime. It put such youths in their place, checked their identity and in come cases took them into custody until their identity had been proven beyond doubt. If the same had been done with Amri, the victims of Breitscheidplatz would also have been able to celebrate New Year's Eve 2016.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

The police don't care about presumed innocence

The taz accuses the police of prejudice based on skin colour and origin:

“However problematic the special treatment of North African migrants may have been, this year there were few alternatives. A repeat of the scenario on New Year’s Eve 2015 had to be prevented, for the state cannot accept public places becoming realms of fear. It would have been too much to expect the police to keep an eye on every individual. So instead it pursued a strategy of psychological deterrence by carrying out preventive checks. The important thing with such a strategy, however, is to emphasise the presumption of innocence. But this is precisely what police chief Jürgen Mathies did not do. He announced that 150 black Africans had been observed in the area around the station without saying what these people were supposed to have done. He has thus created the impression that skin colour is already an accusation in itself. The police must avoid doing this at all costs”

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